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New Seahawks Guard Laken Tomlinson: 'The Culture Here Is Awesome'

New Seahawks guard Laken Tomlinson discusses joining the Seahawks, his impressive durability & the influence his grandparents had on his life. 


During his nine seasons in the NFL, including five in the NFC West with the 49ers, Laken Tomlinson heard plenty of good things about playing for the Seahawks. Now, entering his 10th season in the league, and his first with Seattle having signed as a free agent this offseason, the veteran guard is experiencing it firsthand.

"It's been great," Tomlinson said prior to the Seahawks' first practice of minicamp. "Working with (offensive line coach Scott) Huff and with Mike (Macdonald) and with (offensive coordinator Ryan) Grubb, it's been great. The guys here have been amazing, all my teammates. I heard a lot about the culture here, and all those things I've heard over the years, they're true. The culture here is awesome, the fanbase is awesome, and I'm excited to get this season rolling."

And when the season does indeed get rolling, it's highly likely that Tomlinson will be lined up at left guard, a position he has owned pretty much throughout his NFL career, which includes a Pro-Bowl selection while with the 49ers in 2021. Tomlinson brings talent and leadership to an offensive line that figures to be rather young around him. George Fant, a former teammate of Tomlinson's with the Jets, is also an experienced veteran, but other than those two it's a young position group. Starting tackles Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas are both heading into their third season, while Olu Oluwatimi, the early leader to win the job at center, is heading into Year 2. At right guard, the competition includes a pair of second-year players in Anthony Bradford and McClendon Curtis, as well as rookie Christian Haynes.

"It's a great signing," Seahawks coach Mike Macdonald said. He's going to be in our leadership team. He kind of hits you right between the eyes, communication wise, which is what we're asking for. He brings a veteran presence to our offensive line, some poise. He's a guy who's seen a lot of ball, been in a lot of different systems, so I'm very excited about having Laken on our O-line."

Tomlinson brings not just experience and talent to the offensive line, he also has a remarkable track record of durability despite playing such a physically demanding position. Dating back to Week 2 of the 2017 season, Tomlinson has started 114 consecutive games, and he played 100 percent of his team's offensive snaps in all but four of those games, according to Pro Football Reference.

"Thank God, I've been extremely lucky to play this long with good health, but I also put a lot of work into it as well," Tomlinson said after knocking on a wooden table for good luck when the topic of his durability came up. "You don't really see guys work in the offseason, but I see myself as a player who's extremely dedicated in the offseason. I put a lot of work in my body; my body is my job. I've been blessed, but I also work really hard."

Tomlinson added he is "extremely prideful" of his lengthy track record of availability, noting, "As an offensive lineman, you want to be the guy they can count on, the that's accountable. So I take a lot of pride in that. It's my job, my job is to be there for the team."

And while Tomlinson is there for his team this week, he will travel to his birth country of Jamaica soon to be there for his family. As an emotional Tomlinson shared in his press conference, his grandmother, Gertrude Wilson, passed away last week.

It was Gertrude and Ivan Wilson, who passed away in 2008, who laid the foundation that Tomlinson and so many others in his family have found in America, leaving Jamaica for America where they saved money to bring their family, which included 10 children, as well as grandchildren, Tomlinson included, with them. Tomlinson moved with his mother to Chicago when he was 11, a life-altering move that, among many other things, allowed him to discover American football.

"Both of them, they're the reason why I'm here," Tomlinson said. "They had a dream for our family. My grandma and grandpa had 10 kids and they brought them to the states. They had a dream for us. My grandpa passed a while back and my grandma passed recently. My grandma was able to see that dream realized, and I will let my children know that, because that's extremely important in my heart and that's why I do what I do.

While Tomlinson has thrived in the NFL for the past 10 years, that isn't his only, nor was it his first, professional ambition. After his grandfather passed away in 2008 while on a visit to Jamaica, Tomlinson decided to pursue medicine, with the ultimate goal to build a hospital in Jamaica. That plan was put on pause by the fact that, at Duke, Tomlinson became a top NFL prospect and eventual first-round pick while also earning degrees in both evolutionary anthropology and psychology. But he still hopes to someday attend medical school and eventually get that hospital built in honor of Ivan Wilson.

"It's always been my dream to build a hospital in Jamaica, and that's part of the process for myself to get that done," he said. "That's something that's truly a part of me."

Because of the sacrifices his grandparents made, Tomlinson and so many others in his family had the trajectory of his life changed for the better, and because of the American food he discovered in Chicago, he also, as he put it, "just exploded" gaining 60 pounds and growing six inches. That led to an uncle suggesting he try football, which proved to be another life-changing decision.

"I didn't know anything about football growing up at all—American football" he said. "When you say football in Jamaica, we think soccer. So when I came, funny enough, I came to the States, I did not look anything like this. I was a small kid, but man, my first summer I gained like 60 pounds. My grandma had everything in the fridge. She took real good care of us. Made sure we were eating every day. I never had hamburger before, pizza before, Pizza Hut was right there. So my first summer I gained like 60 pounds and grew like six inches. My body just exploded. My mom saw it and she was like, 'you need to get out the house.' At the time I'm in Chicago, I'm in the inner city of Chicago, you can't really go out like that. So my uncle at the time recommended American football and I was like, anything to make my mom happy, just want her happy. So my mom brought me out for a practice, and here I am."

The Seahawks held the first of three minicamp practices on June 11, 2024 at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center.

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